Saturday, March 17, 2007

What is an author?

Quick takes:

March Madness: It's on!
University of Illinois: Lost their first-round game!
My diet: Okay so far!

Why it's cool to order stuff from CD Baby

For one thing, you get this email:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Tuesday, February 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as 'Customer of the Year'. We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,
Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby

I like a company with a sense of humor. The world would be a happier place if more companies were like CD Baby.

My son the fencer

No, he does not install fencing. He goes to a military prep school even though he doesn't have any real interest in the military. I think he realized that he needed more discipline in his life and a military school would be a good place for that. At some point in his first year, he discovered fencing, the kind where people poke at each other with swords.

The season is over now and my son is home for spring break. He has been teasing me about a surprise and today he handed it over: a plaque announcing that my youngest spawn has won the Coaches' Award for best freshman fencer.

I am thrilled he has found an interest that doesn't involve blowing up aliens or otherwise staring at a TV screen. I am touched that he gave his award to me. Trouble is, he demanded that I put the award in a place where I would be sure to see it every day. The result:

I hope my agent will understand if the last few lines of every page I write are a little garbled.

Author! Author!

What is an author? Is an author different from a writer? If so, is one better than the other?

Beats me. I used to hang out with a woman who wrote instruction manuals for John Deere. She composed such epic verbiage as "Be careful not to engage the driveshaft during this operation or serious injury will result."

Technically, she's a writer. In fact, she's a technical writer. But is she an author? When you get down to it, there's no reason why this woman couldn't put on black clothes and a beret and hang out in bars, telling beatniks that people all over the world read her work, omitting the part that her best effort was a 22-page treatise on setting the proper angle of the deflector plates in the intake chutes of the John Deere RD-566T combine.

What about the guy who writes the blurbs on the back of baseball cards? "In 1994, Jim Russell pitched a one-hitter against the Houston Astros while wearing his pants backward!" or "Before joining the Cardinals staff, Elroy liked to stalk actresses!" That's certainly writing.

Of course, there's the unknown but brilliant person who created this breathless passage: "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." Terse, and yet evocative. A strong voice at a time when strong voices are desperately needed. But there is tragedy here, in the form of those who felt compelled to keep repeating until they had to be forcibly removed from their showers, so locked into their Sisyphusian chore that they begged to be put out of their misery.

That, my friends, is powerful writing. If the unknown creator of those words isn't a author, then none of us are.


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